Sunday, July 31, 2011

In one week

In one week, my sister, the other half of my heart, is returning from Japan. We'll be in the same time zone for the first time in three years.  

For the past three years, my mind's clock has been set 13 to 14 hours ahead. My breakfast with the kids is her bedtime rodeo with hers. And vice versa. For a while, our standard greeting was "mor'vening, dearie." At any time of my day, I know what part of her day she is in.

I've spent three years and three months without her. Three Christmases. Three New Year's. Three Easters. Three Thanksgivings. Four birthdays -- hers and mine. Two baptisms. 

I've seen her once since she left three years ago. Three years have felt like an eternity, yet gone by quicker than I ever imagined they would. We dropped them off at the airport when they left. My husband told them as we hugged them goodbye, "Well, we'll pick you up here in 2011."  I drove their minivan, which is now our minivan, back to our house, crying the whole way.

My life is so different now than when she left. Danny was 16 months old, as old as my Owen is now. I was just weeks away from getting pregnant with Fiona. We were a family of three back then. Now we are five. 

I've had two babies without her. One of them she's met just once and the other she's never met. I was by her side when her youngest was born. I always assumed she'd be by my side for at least one of my births. I never imagined that I would be navigating my children's early years without her near and without them knowing her and their uncle and their cousins from day one.

I've gotten countless packages of what we affectionately call "Jackie junk," handed-down toys and clothes from older cousins that my kids love and remember that it was Aunt Jackie who sent them.

I've spent sleepless nights with crying babies on the phone with her at my 3 a.m.

I've spent endless days with restless, whiny children longing for the distraction of cousins. She probably has, too.

We've made scores of excited and exasperated phone calls to report milestones in our children's lives: first steps, first words, funny things they've said and done, not so funny things they've said and done, what they're learning, what they're not learning.

We've had scores of phone calls and chats interrupted by crying, fighting, needy children at all hours of the day and night.

She's talked me off the ledge and through potty training my oldest. She's kept me sane through the most sleep-deprived years of my life. Sometimes talking to her was the only thing that got me through the day. She's reminded me to breathe and to rest and to eat something and drink some water and get a shower and, by all means, to go easy on the boy. She's reminded me to trust my instincts.

All from 8,000 miles away. I'm not sure what I think will change when she comes back. When I tell my husband how excited I am that she's coming home, finally, he jokes that now we'll be able to talk every day for free. Oh, wait, thanks to the magic of Vonage and Facebook, we do.

My excitement over her return is tempered with sadness for her. It's never easy to say goodbye to the life you have. She lives in a tropical paradise. She's returning to the Washington, DC, area in the middle of the hottest of summers. She's done an amazing job creating a community for herself. And I know she'll do so again where she lands. I'm so grateful for the women and the families who have been her companions there. I know she's been in good hands. Of course, it's not like it's hard being her companion. She's pretty awesome. She's the best listener and most empathetic, articulate and diplomatic person I know. They're losing a great friend, even as I am getting my sister back, and I hope that their paths cross again one day.


gretchen said...

I don't feel like I am losing a friend, I feel like she will be my friend for life. no matter how far apart our lives may take us, Jackie will always be my friend. Great blog post!!

Josee said...

next to sisters, lifelong friends are the best! i hope i get to meet you one day, gretchen!

gretchen said...

No worries, I assured your sis that I will see her again someday! I'm hoping to meet you as well! I've met your mom, I should meet Jackie's sister too!